Wernick is running to represent District 11 on the city council, a position that is being vacated by Councilman Lee Kleinman, who is unable to run for reelection due to term limits. Jaynie Schultz, Mary Candace “Candy” Evans, and Hosanna Yemiru are also vying for the seat.
Wernick said he was inspired to run for office after realizing the importance of local elections during the unrest that occurred in Dallas and elsewhere across the country last summer.
“When rioters and looters are literally burning their cities down we had so-called leaders here endorsing violence … making statements about ‘no justice, no peace,’” Wernick said.
Wernick noted that 95 percent of cities in the U.S. and 97 percent of cities in Texas are safer than Dallas, which he attributed to “poor leadership.”
“First of all, what the [Dallas Police Department (DPD)] needs is the support of the people and I think at a time when public sentiment seems to be against the police, we need to change that around and show the police how much we, the people of Dallas, support the police and need the police,” Wernick said.
The candidate emphasized his belief in the importance of morale in the local police department, and said he is “optimistic” about the newly sworn chief of police, Eddie Garcia.
“Whatever the tools are that [Garcia] needs to be successful, I’ll guarantee you that I will make sure he has it,” Wernick said, adding that he hopes for a “successful police chief.”
Wernick branded himself as the only conservative candidate running for the seat and criticized council members in general for being more responsive to the opinions of their friends and local media than the needs of their constituents.
For her part, Evans condemned the current council for cutting the police department’s overtime budget by 25 percent during a crime wave.
“Why you would make any change in the police budget during a time of high crime in Dallas perplexes me greatly,” Evans said in a phone call with The Texan. “It would not happen. I would not vote for that if I were on council.”
Chief Renee Hall advised the council that the overtime program is necessary and suggested that cutting funding could have unintended consequences. She warned that DPD does not control the circumstances that require additional personnel and “late relief.”
“What we do not have control over is when a homicide is going to happen [or] when individuals are going to be on vacation,” Hall said at the time.
“We cannot control what crime sprees happen and show up whether it’s a protest or civil unrest or whatever happens, we have to be able to respond to that and put the necessary resources out to curtail any crime that’s happening at the time.”
For multiple reasons, Hall announced her resignation in September after the city council chose to cut the police overtime funding. City Manager T.C. Broadnax hired current Chief Eddie Garcia, whose last role was police chief in San Jose, California.
Kleinman voted against an attempt to reinstate the $7 million in police funding that the council had previously slashed and voted against the budget itself in part because the police reforms in the fiscal policy did not go far enough.
Other candidates in the race have positions that center on infrastructure and issues that may contribute to criminal activity.
Yemiru touts her efforts to bring “progressive leadership” to Dallas and her campaign says one of her proposed solutions to the crime wave is “investing into preventive measures such as environmental design, housing, jobs and mental health resources.”
Schultz supports policies that include better street lighting.
“I will work closely with our first responders to ensure they have the tools and training they need to keep families safe and lower crime rates,” Schultz says on her campaign website.
Election day is May 1.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."